Mar 27, 2007

[Web] The Prefix "Bi"

The recent announcement about ICON Magazine going bimonthly had me thinking about that word - bimonthly - and what exactly it meant. This partially stemmed from a running joke about the office in terms of our pay cycle, which is every other Friday. Some say that biweekly is the correct terms while others argue that it's semimonthly.

Being the good trooper that I am, the words of my mother echoed in my head - look it up! She'd answer this way whenever I'd ask her the meaning of any particular word, not in order to avoid answering the question but to condition me in looking for answers to my own questions as much as possible. So let's do just that.

First I tried a Google search using the keyword "define" as in [define: bimonthly] and this is what I got:

Publication issued every two months.

Which is what I thought, so end of problem, right? However, being the thorough researcher, I tried hopping over to Word Source, my favorite social dictionary, and ended up with these definitions instead:

1. occurring twice a month; "a semimonthly publication"

2. occurring every two months; "bimonthly visits"

What gives? Two definitions, both somewhat conflicting with the other? I had to try this again, this time with biweekly:

1. occurring twice a week

2. occurring every two weeks

So it turns out that the debate at the office is moot - they're both right, to some extent. Semimonthly and biweekly technically can mean the same thing! It's amazing that the English language just doesn't make sense most of the time. Good grief.

It pays to take the time to look things up, even when you think you know what you're talking about.

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